Why the World Needs Brewmance
The world needs another beer film. A film about craft beer that gets to the soul of craft beer. That film doesn't exist.
It's something I've thought a lot about.
As I was finishing distribution of my last film, Touch the Wall, I was bandying about several different subjects to occupy my next few years with - wine, country song writing, growing weed, craft beer, etc. It's not a choice best taken lightly.
After all, documentary films like Brewmance and Touch the Wall are multi-year investments of time and money. They're children one natures and feeds (funds), then shepherds through adolescence to graduation. And once graduated, they need guiding through their way in the world. One hopes that way includes theatrical distribution, healthy home video, perhaps a broadcast premiere, and a star turn on iTunes, That way in the world is always unsure, but hey ... you want the best for your kid.
But to tell the story of craft beer, I needed an "in". I needed some way for the audience to latch hold of the kernel of the story, to find a way in to the world of craft beer. And I found it right here in my hometown.
There's plenty of beer films out there. They usually involve lots of famous brewers sitting down for an interview talking about the wonders of craft beer, and those interviews are interwoven with pretty visuals of people drinking foaming glasses of beer and entrancing video of the bottling line. The ideas covered are often interesting, but one simply can't endure this kind of punishment for more than a half hour.
Films should be entertaining, and engaging, and have people doing stuff in them. If you can find a story, then you can sit through an entire movie. And that's what a movie should be -something that holds your attention for the whole time. If it's good, it makes you feel.
When I screwed up my courage to go to a monthly meeting of the Long Beach Homebrewer's club, I knew I was at least putting myself in the path of a story. My good friend Tom Hok, erstwhile amateur (in the purest definition of the word) of all things interesting, had become a home brewer. He has expounded to me the virtues of home brewing and spoke of the home brewer club meetings he attended. Over a couple of beers (of course), he told me a bit of the culture of home brewing in his club, and the culture of craft beer they were soaked in. It sounded different from most worlds I live in - a culture of sharing, unconditional acceptance, and avid enthusiasm. At this Long Beach home brewer's meeting I confirmed most of what Tom had excited me about, and I knew there was film in it.
At that first LBHB meeting I was, for me, coy. When they welcomed the newcomers, I announced that I didn't know anything about brewing, but that I was interested to learn. I didn't tell anyone I was interested in making a film. I got a hearty welcome. I didn't divulge my intentions, cause that would have been weird and uncomfortable. But I began thinking to myself, "you know ... if there was a home brewer here who was about to open his/her own brewery, that might make for a story." Soon after I had that thought, I learned that there was, indeed, a home brewer who was about to "go pro". It was Dan Sundstrom, who with his son Jesse, was about to open Ten Mile Brewery in Signal Hill (a city-within-a-city here in Long Beach). I approached Dan after the meeting. I told him of my desire to explore making a film about home brewing and craft beer, and he told me he'd be happy to participate. He then told me of another home brewer about to do the same - Levi and Harmony Fried of Long Beach Beer Lab.
The next day I was shooting with Levi as he went to city hall to discuss plans. A bit after that, Dan told me I should look up Dan Regan of Liberation Brewing, another good guy opening up shop on Atlantic. He agreed to be part of the film, too. And baby makes three.
With those three Long Beach brewers, I had a story to tell. This was my "in", a way to tell a story about the creation of flavor and taste, to tell the story about how we love to drink a brew created by people who care deeply about what they drink. I had, in short, a way to tell the story of craft beer. Because most of all the successful craft brewers today - the Ken Grossmans of Sierra Nevada, the Jim Koches of Boston Beer Company, the Greg Kochs, the Steve Hindys, the Vinnie Cilurzos - had all been home brewers, and they had all brought the world wonderful beers they were passionate about. They made beers they liked to drink, and they got others to drink it. And as they did they created one of the few indigineous American exports to the world, and perhaps one of our finest achievements.
And now there's a film to tell that story.